Contradicting what I said last week, I think this battle is probably over. Now, I’m going to qualify that statement by saying I do still think there’s a chance there will be another phase to the battle before the dust truly settles, but I’m going to explain what changed my mind and what all of this could mean moving forward.
The most interesting detail this week is Momonosuke’s decision. He tells Zunesha that he has decided it’s not yet time to open Wano’s borders. And this single line of dialogue is what has changed my mind regarding the battle continuing – more so than anything else which happened in this week’s chapter. I do still think there’s a slight chance we see Kaido re-emerge one final time before all is said and done, but at this point, I don’t think it’s at all likely. And that’s entirely based on Momonosuke’s decision to delay opening the borders.
I think Momonosuke’s decision signifies that the immediate opening of Wano’s borders is even more directly tied to the final war and the endgame of the entire series than was already apparent. This signifies that many of the things I’ve ben pointing to as evidence the battle would continue are likely going to be purposely left unresolved until the final saga.
Ultimately, the inflection point in the battle I’ve been anticipating may have come and gone without my taking notice – when Luffy was seemingly killed by Kaido in Chapter 1042 and resurrected by his Nika powers in Chapter 1043. I have been saying in my reviews that I didn’t anticipate the battle would end without Kaido putting Luffy on the ropes and making it seem all hope was lost. But essentially, that is what happened when Bowler Hat interfered in their battle and Kaido struck down Luffy with full force. The reversal was then Luffy’s subsequent Awakening.
On that note, I think Oda didn’t allow us to sit with this defeat for long enough which made it feel like more of a speedbump than a major obstacle. Perhaps if he had allowed the regrouped forces in the Performance Hall to actually battle Kaido among the flames, it would’ve made Luffy’s miracle resurrection a bit more impactful. But for that reason, I think I incorrectly assumed there must still be another major inflection point in the battle remaining.
Further, I have frequently suggested that Kaido’s flashback doesn’t really delve into the roots of his motivation – and I stand by that assertion, but given the ending of this chapter, I think it’s quite possible that Kaido’s story, much like Big Mom’s will continue beyond Wano. As I’ve been saying for some time, I expect Big Mom and the Charlotte Family will continue to feature prominently in future story arcs, most likely Elbaf.
By contrast, I expected we would see resolution for Kaido’s story here and now and thus expected his backstory would be fully revealed before the Raid’s conclusion. But ultimately, the reason we didn’t get to see Kaido’s awakening or backstory may be because Oda intends to reveal those details in the future. I’m still not entirely ruling out the possibility of another phase to the battle, but the fact that Wano’s borders are seemingly going to remain closed and Oden’s dream unfulfilled for the time being has changed my perspective – and makes it much more clear how Oda can deliver a satisfying conclusion despite all the unresolved narrative thread.
In either case, Momonosuke’s decision both makes sense and has major ramifications on the structure of this story arc. I had previously understood Oden’s words in Chapter 968 indicated that Wano’s borders opening for Joy Boy’s return was a precursor to the re-discovery of One Piece, but Momonosuke instead deciding to wait until a later time indicates that this prophesied event is likely to mark the start of the final war which Oden told Toki will be great enough to split the very seas apart.
This is largely what has changed my perspective on the nature of this current battle against Kaido. The closest comparison I can make is to the Fishman Island story arc. I remember while reading week-to-week continuously pointing to unresolved narrative threads like the Noah as evidence there must be more going on beyond Hody’s hollow attempt to seize power. Which turned out not to be incorrect, but premature. Many of the narrative and thematic elements which at the time seemed to suggest the battle was just getting started were in fact included to setup later events Oda still hasn’t gotten to over a decade later.
In that sense, I think many of these unfinished elements on Wano, including potentially even Big Mom and Kaido’s stories, are setup for events which won’t unfold until after One Piece is rediscovered and Luffy is crowned Pirate King.
The End… For Now
Kaido will strike back. But it’s very likely not this day. Kaido isn’t looking to be defeated. He’s looking for a place to die. He hasn’t awakened his Devil Fruit yet. He hasn’t been truly bested yet (I don’t think Luffy completely overpowered Kaido – and I think it’s very, very important we don’t accept Luffy as the strongest character in the series; It took a volcanic eruption to end the fight, without which Luffy would still lose. This is the only way the story can continue to function with actual dramatic tension n future battles against opponents).
He’s still intent on using Wano to realize his ambition of creating a world of war. His backstory hasn’t been revealed – and I’m not talking about Rocks. Being an Ogre is central to Kaido’s identity and motivation and that hasn’t been revealed yet. Just as the story of Wano won’t be finished until the endgame, the story of Kaido also remains incomplete and WILL be revisited in the future. Kaido is not finished.
With all that said, Oda has tied Kaido’s fate to Big Mom’s. Despite being set adrift in a sea of subterranean magma, as insane as this feat of strength is even by One Piece standards, I think there’s almost no chance the two fallen Emperors are actually dead.
It’s very rare for Oda to kill major characters, much less in such an ambiguous and unceremonious fashion. It’s notable that Oda has linked Kaido’s fate to Big Mom given how likely it seems her story will go on.